Year after year in the beginning of August “Zappatown” Bad Doberan is invaded by fans of Frank Zappa from all over the world. This could only mean, that the torture stopps again for 4 days and that “it’s Zappanale time”.
A colorful musical program runs on two stages and includes former companions of Frank Zappa who shared stage with him as well as new acts which are either in some respect heirs of Zappa or feel indebted to his musical ideas.
Also this year the loyal followers didn’t refuse to show up and it was, as every year, a great, diversified festival where not only the music but also the atmosphere tied together people as different as they could be. From the probably last original Hippies on this planet to younger music freaks who rather prefer a more abstract access to music than the intuitive one Zappa proclaimed the whole spectrum met next to the Baltic Sea and celebrated the genius of Frank.
According to the diversity of the audience also the range of artists and their music spanned from Zappa Cover bands to Hard Rock to Psychodelic to to Noise to Avantgarde (cheers to Charly and his Freakshow who presents some very distinguished bands every year!).
Of course, we’ve been there, done that and while doing it shot some photos of which we’d like to share a selection with you – please find more pictures by us at the official Zappanale page which you may reach by clicking Zappanale Photos by Eduard Tetzlaff.
As every year, the festival started with a warm-up at the Kamp in the center of Bad Doberan and then moved on on Wednesday at the Galopprennbahn – the actual festival site. This first evening was basically devoted to Sandro Oliva, who, after entering music business and making himself a name by touring Italy and the US a bizarre mixture of Jazz, Rock´n´Roll, satiric lyrics and strange shows, joined the Grandmothers after Zappa’s death in ’93.
The next day, while strolling around the festival site, a tune caught my ear – Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” in a rock version presented by the next festival stunner Gargantua, a polish band from Cracow which already caught my attention last autumn at the RIO festival in Carmaux, France by presenting a rough but down to earth mixture of chamber prog, Rock In Opposition and classical Prog Rock with charming Eastern Europe touch. The band was founded in 2003 and subsequently recorded their self-titled debut. After severe line-up changes which brought in the charismatic female singer and violinist Tylda Ciolkosz and pianist Pawel Kubica, they recorded their second album “Kotegarda” in 2007. Their music is best described by a quote by colleague Thomas Kohlruss, summing it up as “Univers Zero jam alongside with Frogg Cafe over King Crimson themes”.
Well, right after the heavy modern classical and prog rock tunes of Gargantua, something more easy should come which was just what happened. Turning our attention from the tent stage to the huuuuge main stage, one could have a look at “Triggerfinger”, a band from Antwerpen, Belgium, presenting bluesy Hard Rock reduced to its max:
After taking this Hard Rock breath, the next attraction no Zappa fan wants to miss was the “reunion” of pianist George Duke and violin player Jean-Luc Ponty – two well known composers which both were playing with Zappa in the early 70s and are also well known for their ’69s joint album “Jean-Luc Ponty Experience with the George Duke Trio” which is considered to be one of the earliest fusion jazz albums. This is exactly what they presented on stage, both showing their excellent skills on their respective instruments which they played full of passion, as you can see on the pictures:
The evening was closed by the belgium space rock / psychedelic (well, they had a “magic mushroom” amplifier…) band “Quantum Fantay”, who were already featured at the Herzberg festival some years ago:
The next day, Friday the 3rd of August, was opened up by another band from belgium, Humble Grumble, presented by the above mentioned Charly and his Freakshow. They hit the streets in ’96 and began with a mixture of Folk and Rock but soon included jazzy and avantgarde elements compounded presented with a humorous touch. Exactly this touch ties them to the heritages of Zappa as well as their obvious (pics!) love of beautiful women. Their latest record was released on the italian label Altrock Records which connects them to the concurrent resurrection of the Rock in Opposition movement, though their music is based on heavily sweet-talking melodies.
The next band on the agenda was a norwegian cover band, called Dead Dino Storage, who have a pretty tough agenda covering King Crimson, Yes, Gentle Giant, Rush, Happy the Man, Genesis, UK, ELP, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Brand X and many more. They were founded in ’96 and got in touch with covering Zappa in ’98. Since then they have played tribute shows all over the world and are qualified as great musicians also including stage act into their shows. Actually, at this year’s Zappanale I think I remember them playing King Crimson’s “Lizard” – along with the indispensable “Titties & Beer”, identifiable by the devil…
Well, back to the next act we have to take a look at Die Reise. Nomen est omen and this trio, whose name in English means “the journey”, presents a musical trip guided by nothing but blindness to preset definitions. The songs presented are more or less improvised and as such created in the very moment of its public presentation. Therefore, they rely heavily on on-stage appearances and refuse to record records as far as I know. They’ve also been playing last year’s Zappanale, where they presented more a post-rock set, whereas this year the density of punch-riffs was heavily increased. The audience loved it and so did the author:
To keep up the enthusiasm of Zappa-purists, the next group on main stage was the well known and far travelled “Mothers Hips” who included bass player Scott Thunes, who probably is best known for sharing the stage with Frank Zappa in the 80s and with Zappa’s son Dweezil Zappa later:
This friday was called a day by the legendary French band Magma, who were one of the biggest Pop band in France in the 70s – Pop band at the Zappanale? Well, don’t be fooled! The story to be told here is rather long and winding – so let’s get some kind of a summary:
In the late 60’s the classically trained Drummer Christian Vander founded Magma following an “vision of humanity’s spiritual and ecological future”. Their music belongs to a subgenre of progressive rock called “Zeuhl”, which they founded themself based on Jazz sax player John Coltrane and heavily adapting modern classical music by Carl Orff and Igor Stravinsky. Not only did they create their own genre but also Christian Vander and long-time vocalist Klaus Blasquiz invented an own “constructed language” – a phonetic language which does not have a word-by-word meaning but where each words mean something. This language is called Kobaïan and in this language “Zeuhl” means something like “heavenly” (well, in French “heavenly” means “ciel” which just sounds like zeuhl).
Magma’s lyrics, which are mostly presented in a chorally and almost exclusively sung in Kobaïan, tell the story about humans fleeing from Earth and setteling on a fictitous planet called Kobaïa where the live after an epiphany in peace and only eventually return to the doomed Earth. In the early 70s they recorded several albums (some of which are grouped into triologies) based on this story and only on their latest records they treat different matters, e.g. on their very recent 2012’s album “Félicité Thösz”.
The artistic characteristics of Zeuhl are rather long compositions, based on repetitive, Orffish riffs, over which they stack melodic figures which are strongly influenced by Jazz, eastern Europe Folklore harmonies and modern classical structures and plainchants.
I saw them 2 years ago at the Rock In Opposition Festival in Carmaux, France – and again and again fell asleep, so my expectations for this Zappanale gig were pretty low – but wow – what a stunner. They completely blew me away! Couldn’t shut my mouth while they rocked the mainstage and I was completely – say – overwhelmed by their stage presence as where all the musicians of all other bands which I met – prog-heads as well as former Zappa-mates – it was terrific!
Saturday (morning) was opened up by my dear French friends Jack Dupon. And what didn’t Zappa say? “There is no hell, there’s only France.” Cheers, mates!
Well, neverminding old sayings, Jack Dupon definitively are one of the freshest bands who carry over the spirit of Frank Zappa to this century. “The year is 2001 A.C. Gaul is entirely occupied by the Chansons. Well, not entirely… One small village of indomitable Gauls still holds out against the invadors…” by jamming together in their hometown Clermont-Ferrand in the very center of “Gaul”. Actually, the three young lads never aimed on touring or even single stage apperances or recording records – but then in 2004 they met their antipode in person of guitarist Philippe Prebet who, as far as I was told (and never be sure about their stories!!!) blackmailed them: either they rise from their cellars or he’ll quit doing music. Luckily, they chose the former option and as a result, Jack Dupon was born! They recorded a first album l’Africain Disparu, won several contests, were signed by the French progressive rock label Musea and released their second record L’Echelle du Désir, which they presented on their subsequent 08’s European tour. And their successfull story didn’t quite reach their climax. They continued recording and touring the US (2010’s progday) and other exotic countries, released their third record “Démon Hardi”, played last years RIO Festival in Carmaux (where the author met them, looking for…eeehhh…nevermind) and lately released their first live record “Bascule à vif” which beautifully transports their on-stage energy and manifests their reputation as excellent performers.
After all this haunting after keywords you might wonder “who actually is Jack Dupon”? well, the answer ist best given by themself:
This great concert was followed up later by a gig of a band called “Jazzprojekt Hundehagen”, a local “amateur” band who already played at last years Zappanale. But contrary to the term “amateur” (which just refers to the fact, that they don’t make a living with their band), they struck up really intensively – most accurately displayed in the grimaces of their guitar player Michael Käckenmeister. Actually, their strange name is just a leftover of their first rehersal room which happened to be in a village called “Hundehagen” and since they intended to play music related to Jazz, “voila, we got a name”!
Well, if you start an Alternative Metal band, what would the estimate be that you’ll enter the Zappanale as a headliner one day? Probably, as mathematicians would say, epsilon for epsilon going to zero! Motorpsycho from Norway got exactly that far – ok, admittedly they don’t play what I’d call Metal anymore but moved further to some sort of 70s Alternative Jam Glam Grundge Hard Rock blabla. Founded in ’89 and named after a movie by Russ Meyer (Mudhoney was, as we all know, already taken) they released record after record, most recently they were responsible for the “rock” part in Supersilent’s Stale Storlokkens masterpiece and concept album “The Death Defying Unicorn”.
But besides recording albums, they are the essence of what you would call a live band and create an on stage energy which are unparalleled. This they were exactly up to and bumping into the band at the fantastic Magma concert, though they negated, I knew they can do better…and they did! Less taking but more “in your face” – one guitar solo after the other, the drummer did not calm down a second and the bass? – wow! That’s Motorpsycho, that’s Rock’n’Roll – look out for their next gig!
Yeah – and there had to be a closing event – a task which was filled this year by “DeWolff”. After a whole day of wondering who these kiddies with fake 70s attitude and cloths who suddenly showed up backstage were, I was shown a truck with these kids on…and a slogan saying “what happens backstage stays backstage” on it! Well, so far so good. I was also told that these 16 year olds started out to save rock’n’roll, that they are going to be as big as Led Zep and blablabla – more crap.
Actually, it’s kind of not fair…claiming the stage after Motorpsycho isn’t easy for any rock’n’roll musician and these kids obviously had no idea of what they were doing. The rip-off followed the original, the ones put in their fake 70s leather boots followed the ones who grew up in them and didn’t take them of since. It was a descent of originality without comparison.
Well, the kids actually did their job well – but it’s a job! And the promised “Led Zep but younger”? Well, there’s Jimmy Page…and well, there’s Robert Plant…and well, there’s John-Paul Jones…and don’t you forget Bonham – so here’s the story, folks:
Just by dressing up like the originals decades ago and just by bringing a Hammond Organ, you don’t become Led Zep over night…
Thanks for your interest, please leave your comments and hope to see you next year, folks, at this unique, colourful, peaceful and most relaxed festival on this planet!
…and no, I didn’t promise not(hing)…